Austin Peay to host NASA during total solar eclipse - WSMV Channel 


Austin Peay to host NASA during total solar eclipse

Posted: Feb 22, 2017 4:43 PM CSTUpdated: Feb 22, 2017 5:00 PM CST

In just six months, millions of people will see darkness in the middle of the day.


A total eclipse will happen on Aug. 21, and several cities in the Midstate are in its path. That includes Clarksville, where Austin Peay State University will work with NASA scientists.

The scientists will conduct some experiments during the eclipse, and they chose Austin Peay because it has the only big astronomy program closest to the path.

"The people who I've talked to who have seen a total eclipse say it's a lot more than just interesting," said Dr. Spencer Buckner, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at Austin Peay.

The last time it stretched from coast to coast in the United States was 99 years ago.

"It's a phenomena. The animals react to it, the temperature drops 15 to 20 degrees. It gets as dark as night," Buckner said.

Clarksville is in a prime spot, very close to the center of it all.

"Once we realized that, it kind of dawned on us that, oh, everyone's going to want to come here," said Dr. Alex King, the physics and astronomy department chair.

Austin Peay is now gearing up for about 20 NASA scientists from Huntsville to arrive.

"A balloon launch group is going to be coming up and launching some balloons into the atmosphere," Buckner said. "They're wanting to look at various changes in the atmosphere as the eclipse passes."

Some scientists will come to the farm and environmental education center for some experiments. Others will go to a farm away from power lines for radio astronomy experiments, Buckner said.

A group of children participating in a NASA-associated space camp will also come to APSU for the experience. Physics and astronomy students are preparing their own balloon launch during the eclipse.

"These balloons get well up to 80 or 90,000 feet. So they'll get above any possible clouds that will come by," Buckner said.

Aside from science, the total solar eclipse draws a sense of wonder. It will happen around 1:30 p.m., so you must wear certified glasses to protect your eyes from the sun.

"You can see this huge shadow racing at you at 1,000 miles an hour," Buckner said.

Millions of people are planning where they will be when it happens.

"You don't have to be at an observatory to see the eclipse. You don't have to have a telescope. All you really have to do is step outside," King said.

Anyone near a city that in the path of the eclipse will be about to see it, and the path is about 70 miles wide.

Hopkinsville is considered the epicenter of the eclipse with the greatest viewing location. Other Midstate locations in its path include Clarksville, Nashville, Gallatin, Springfield, Lebanon and Murfreesboro.

The next total solar eclipse to cross from East Coast to West Coast in the U.S. will be in 2045.

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